Just this past April, the NYC quartet Charly Bliss dropped their long-awaited debut record, Guppy. The 30-minute dose of giddy, kick-ass bubble-grunge was recorded twice over a three-year period—an unconventional length of time to spend on a sole project by today’s standards. However, when the band finally felt comfortable enough to release it, any and all doubts quickly vanished. The record was a hit, and Charly Bliss have rocketed from appetizers to entrees in the short six months since its arrival. Last week I spoke to frontwoman Eva Hendricks on the evening before she’d play a sold-out headliner at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. She was elated, but her excitement was twofold, as the night before was also an astonishing indication of how far the band’s come in such little time.
“I was too sick to sing for the show last night, and we didn’t wanna cancel,” she said. Her voice was hoarse but she didn’t sound drained; she sounded determined. “So we just decided to try and play the set instrumentally and try and have people sing along, and everybody did. That was one of the most special feelings in the world.”
Given the juxtaposition between how long it took the band to make Guppy—a process that started back when Hendricks was still booking the band’s tours out of her college dorm—and how quickly it caught on once people heard it, it still feels surreal for her to be playing for people who actually know her band’s music.
“It’s been hard to wrap our heads around this year,” she said. “I feel like there’ll always be a part of us where every time we play a show we ask, ‘Wait is anybody actually gonna show up?’ Like, if we don’t beg our parents and friends to go to our shows then there’ll be no one there,” she joked, mere days after returning home from a mostly sold-out UK tour.
Charly Bliss’ anomalous trajectory is fascinating to consider, particularly in a culture where content moves so quickly. There’s a persistent feeling in the “insta-age” that if you’re not constantly sprinting forward then you’re falling behind. Charly Bliss are proof that that’s not always the case. They had only released a three-song EP and a couple singles prior to Guppy, but have hurdled further forward in the months since it dropped than many of their high-output peers have in years.
“I feel like because everything’s so fast-paced, it’s easy to believe that you have to be moving no matter what,” Hendricks said. “I’m so glad that we waited and took our time, and had a really strong plan, and had everything be perfect and exactly the way we wanted it to be when we put it out.”
“I think if we hadn’t done that then there would’ve been a lot of things that we’d regret about it.”
The night after Charly Bliss’ big gig at the 550-cap Music Hall, just 20 minutes south at the Bushwick Public House, a little band called Nervous Dater underwent a landmark music moment of their own; their debut album release show. Although the two could feasibly complement each other on a bill, Nervous Dater’s come-up has been charmingly grimier than that of Charly Bliss.
Compared to the glistening production and effervescent hooks on Guppy, Nervous Dater’s Don’t Be A Stranger is rougher and more intimate sounding, as if most of it was conceived during a series of half-drunk, 3 AM epiphanies. It’s not as immediate or as easily digestible as the effortlessly memorable Guppy, and the band’s odd amalgamation of gritty pop-punk, scraggly emo and serrated indie-rock doesn’t exactly ring mid-2010s Brooklyn. Therefore, Nervous Dater had a different set of experiences while trying to find their place in the oversaturated East Coast music mecca.
“Brooklyn and New York can get very cliquey,” bassist Kevin Cunningham said after a set in Pittsburgh last week. “People create scenes and they aren’t very welcoming to other people, whether it’s intentional or not. . . When we failed to get into any scene, we kind of just made our own.”
“It all started with BPH,” frontwoman Rachel Lightner said, casually dropping the acronym for Bushwick Public House. “We found this coffee shop that had a basement. Like a really, just dank-ass basement. We were just like, ‘Hey our friends drink a lot. Can we start booking shows there?’”
“When we found BPH, a lot of our friends started forming bands around the same time and we all started playing shows together,” Cunningham said. “And we try our best not to replicate the problems we’ve had with other scenes, as far as not being welcoming.”
“We’ve just become such a tight-knit little community,” Lightner said.
Although it’s inconsequential to compare the careers of Charly Bliss and Nervous Dater, and the latter was by no means targeting the former with their clique qualms, it’s interesting to see how vastly different the pathways are for two bands of the same genre (relatively speaking) simultaneously coming up in the same city. However, when either group hits the road, whether they’re stepping in front of hundreds at a packed club, or a couple dozen in a dingy basement, they’re both looking for that special feeling that unites every up-and-comer in the game.
“We played a bike shop last night in Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] and it was amazing,” Lightner said. “They were all young, all college kids who had never seen us before.”
“There were only 20 people there, but the kids were so appreciative of us being there and having a show to go to, which is something we definitely do not get in Brooklyn,” Cunningham said. “I’d rather play for five people who are really into it than 100 people who have no idea who you are.”
“We’ve played shows as openers for huge crowds of people but nobody had any idea who the fuck we were,” Hendricks said, referring to Charly Bliss’ stint as openers for Glass Animals. “Sometimes it feels a little, like, lonely. Like, oh maybe I’m just having a party up here alone and you’re being forced to watch it.”
“I think it’s really cool being in a small space and feeling so close to the people and the crowd. To feel like you’re really in it together,” she said.
Both bands will be playing shows in Albany this weekend; Charly Bliss on 10/12 at 7PM at The Linda with Yucky Duster and Noods; and Nervous Dater on 10/13 at a DIY venue in downtown Albany, supporting Prince Daddy & the Hyena’s front-to-back playthrough of My Chemical Romance’s seminal, The Black Parade. Both shows are must-sees.